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May 2008 Newsletter

Book  reviewing is probably not my strength, but only a few
coffee books ever get published, and virtually none from
Australia. This has just changed with the publication of "The
Espresso Quest"
by Instaurator.

"Inny" (as he is known to his friends)
 is a scion of the Forsyth family. His brother Rob Forsyth
has a coffee store in Naremburn, Sydney, NSW, but
Instaurator has charted his own path in the coffee world and has
his own wholesale roasting business, as well as being a judge at
several World Barista Championships and involved with the
Michel's Patisserie franchise.

The title of the book is an accurate reflection of the contents,
documenting Inny's own quest for the "God in my cup" experience.
What the book is not is a prescriptive, by-the-numbers exercise
in step-by-step espresso brewing. Rather, it describes his
progress through the espresso world in a series of linked
chapters headed:

The Taste
The Grower
The Roaster
The Barista .

Along the way he discusses his own first forays into espresso,
visits to coffee plantations, coffee markets and the coffee
supply chain from farm to retail, roasting philosophy and its
application in different countries and markets, and a host of
other subjects. The book reads more like a loosely organized
"stream of consciousness" than a set of precision recipes for
perfect espresso, and is better for it.

The narrative holds the interest of the casual reader as well as
the espresso aficionado, it's a good read even if you're not a
coffee fanatic. There are a few minor facts and viewpoints I
disagree with, but it's extremely rare to find widespread
agreement anywhere in the coffee world, and particularly the
espresso world. I do have two major caveats, though.

The first is with the history of espresso in Australia, which is
very "Sydney-centric". Espresso "relatively new in the 1980's"?
In Melbourne, espresso was all there was by the 1980's, having
started in the 1950's. More to the point, all the major roasters
and machine importers were Melbourne based and doing a roaring
trade by 1980. It is true that Sydney was a lot slower to accept
espresso, being more heavily American influenced.

American style drip filter coffee never really took off in
Melbourne; plunger and Moka Pot were the major domestic brewing
methods before home espresso machines appeared on the market.

The second caveat is that at times some portions of the book read
like an "Advertorial". I'm sure this is unintentional, and Inny
is just enthusiastic about his friends, but (especially if you're
in the local trade) it can grate a bit.

Overall, though, The Espresso Quest is an excellent addition to
the coffee library. The book can be purchased directly from
www.espressoquest.com.

One of the topics discussed in the book is the education of the
coffee farmer and the introduction of "Micro-lots" of coffee from
particular farms or sometimes just small areas of such farms.
Driven by "Cup of Excellence" style auctions and roaster/grower
relationships, more of these coffees are now available. This
month's special coffee is just such a bean,

Honduras  SHG Marcala Estate
$40.00/kg

This coffee has the sweet mild acidity, medium body and clean
finish expected of the best Central American coffees, and
features an intriguing hint of malty honey in the middle palate.


Alan